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Rainy Night in Poulsbo

We have been generally lucky with weather on our bike trips. I attribute this to our diligence in checking forecasts from multiple sources and studying radar patterns. Alas, this is the Pacific Northwest, and sometimes you just cannot escape the rain. We set off on this overnight to Kitsap Memorial State Park armed with rain jackets and a tarp because a little drizzle doesn’t scare us.

The ride to the park was pretty unremarkable. I was a little wobbly at first, not having ridden my bike fully loaded in over a month. John, as usual, makes everything look easy. All the interesting stuff happened at the campground.

The Interurban Trail was deserted on another gorgeous Saturday.

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After the week-long tour, we both ceremoniously tossed our stinky gloves into the trash in Centralia. On that same day, something weird I still don’t understand caused my sunglasses to melt. Now I have some new purple sunglasses and purple gloves that match my purple shoes!

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I got another new toy too. This thermometer is from StemCAPtain. Now I can know exactly how cold it is when I complain about my fingers going numb.

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The view of the Olympics over Hood Canal from the beach at Kitsap Memorial State Park was beautiful.

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The campground in general was really great. The restrooms were the best I’ve seen.

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The three hiker-biker sites were separated from the main campground. They were quiet and roomy.

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Even though we brought a tarp, there were no good trees to use to tie it up. Instead we used the tie-downs to make sure the rain fly was nice and taught. Just in case.

While we were setting up camp, the University of Washington pep band was announcing the arrival of the newlyweds at a wedding reception in the nearby Log Hall.

For this fully self-supported trip, we packed the fanciest dinner yet! Tortellini, prosciutto, and basil from the garden. All on a table cloth! There were even s’mores for dessert.

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After dinner, a full round of Play 9, and the wedding DJ was done for the night, it was time for bed.

The rain started around 1:20. It didn’t just drizzle, it poured. The noise of the rain hitting the tent and the constant worry about a leak made for a sleepless night. It stopped early in the morning, but everything was wet.

After packing up the tent, we realized it worked pretty great at keeping us and our belongings dry. Maybe next time I will worry less and sleep better.

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Our picnic table was soaked. We ate breakfast in the covered pavilion. We usually identify the pavilions before we go to sleep in case we need to run to a dry spot in the middle of the night.

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The view wasn’t so clear Sunday morning, but the water was glassy smooth.

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On our way back to the campsite after pavilion breakfast, a lady gave us this bag of tomatoes. She lives nearby and usually gives them to the camp workers, but since they weren’t around, she gave them to us. In those 5 minutes we learned her whole life story about living on the peninsula for 16 years, her plantar fasciitis, and her mother in Redmond.

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This was an easy little trip. 15 miles to the ferry, a quick ferry ride, and 15 minutes on the other side. The park is right off the main road. No scary hills. The scenery from the road wasn’t that interesting, but the shoulders were generous, which makes for a fast ride. We were away from home for 25 hours. This easily could have been an S24O, especially without the rain.

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If you just need to get out, this is a great campground. There isn’t much else to do, so bring some games and marshmallows, and enjoy being outside!

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Week On Olympic Peninsula – Volume II

Have you read Volume I? In that post, I talk about the route, itinerary, and highlight some of the favorite spots. This is Volume II where I will get back to talking about bike camping, and what went right, and what I learned.

This was our longest tour to date, having been on mostly overnighters. I would say weekend tours are our specialty. Usually a weekend is all the time we can spend away from our full-time jobs. Weekend trips also provide lots of opportunities to try new gear, new routes, and any other new ideas we come up with.

We can handle two days and one night of bad weather, lousy food, and not sleeping. But seven days away from home meant we had to take a few things much more seriously than we usually do.

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Week On Olympic Peninsula – Volume I

The epic week around Olympic Peninsula became a reality!

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July 2014, John and I finished our longest tour yet at 3 full days, and we started seriously talking about a week-long tour. The following weekend, our precious bikes were stolen from our condo garage while we were sleeping. The theft stalled our touring plans for the rest of the season. That’s why we were so eager to do some cold weather trips earlier this year.

Less than a year later we had new and upgraded bikes, a new house where we had better storage solutions, and a determination to literally get back in the saddle.

Most of the blogs, forums, and facebook pages I find are about tours that last week to months to even years, many of them international. When John and I decided to use our summer vacation to take a 1-week tour around the Olympic Peninsula, once again we felt like there was a lack of information about a mere 1-week trip. How much should we bring? How far can we expect to ride on consecutive days? The long distance tourers seem to do a lot more sight-seeing, travel less daily miles, and take frequent rest days (also laundry days). Here was the only information I found from someone doing a similar trip. Circling the Olympic Peninsula 2008. Skyler’s account gave me hope that our plans were totally possible.

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The Basics:
Around 400 miles in 7 days
Day 1: Seattle to Potlatch State Park – 50 miles
Day 2: Sequim Bay State Park – 70 miles
Day 3: Klahowya Campground – 60 miles
Day 4: Kalaloch Campground – 60 miles
Day 5: Lake Quinault Lodge – 40 miles
Day 6: Ocean City State Park – 45 miles
Day 7: Olympic Club Hotel in Centralia, WA – 80 miles
Day 8: AMTRAK back to Seattle
I’m not going to do a step-by-step trip log because we were almost always on the main road that one would use to drive to these locations (mostly US 101). If you happen to have a question about any specifics, feel free to ask in the comments section.
This blog post is to celebrate some of our favorite parts of the tour we’ve been dreaming about for a year.
The Highlights:
Lake Crescent
I had been worried about the 9-mile stretch of road through Olympic National Park bordering Lake Crescent since John first mentioned 101. If you’ve ever driven it, it is curvy with limited sight lines, no shoulder, lots of logging trucks, and recreational vehicles. Also it has a spectacular view that is too hard to look at because you are busy paying attention to the road. By bike, it turns out it was quite the opposite!
At either end, bikes are encouraged to activate a signal that includes 1-hour of a flashing light on a “bikes on roadway” sign.
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On a Wednesday afternoon, the cars usually gave a good buffer while passing, there were limited RVs, and most of the logging trucks were going the other direction. There was a pullout every mile or so that was easy to pull over and look around for a minute, something I wouldn’t do in a car.
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Tolt MacDonald

Overnight to Tolt-MacDonald Campground

  • May 23-24, 2015
  • 76 miles round trip

It was Memorial Day weekend. Holiday weekend trips usually require advanced planning and reservations. That’s when bike camping is so satisfying! I’ve heard that Tolt-MacDonald is a good biking destination for first-time bike campers. I really enjoyed the campground and most of the route. But portions of the route were on busy roads and there was a killer hill. I wonder if I didn’t go the preferred way. I would definitely make this trip again, and I’d say it’s good for experienced bikers looking to try a camping trip, but probably not good for campers looking for a first time bike-camping trip because of the traffic and terrain.

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Chick-Fil-Line

  • Saturday 5/16/2015
  • 30 Total Miles

Another beautiful spring Saturday in Seattle. Where to this time? A Chick-Fil-A just opened in Lynnwood, so how about some nuggets for lunch? Chick-Fil-A has only recently made its way to Seattle, and this particular location had been open for a week. People camped out and everything. Sounds like a good reason to go check it out. Plus, we identified 2 breweries along the route to try out.

First, pick up the Interurban Trail at Fremont and 110th. There is a parking lot if you don’t have out-the-door access.

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The trail is usually not very crowded, but this seemed pretty empty for a nice weekend. DSCN0307

The Interurban Trail follows the route of the old Interurban Rail Line. This cute park in Lake Ballinger pays tribute to the an old rail stop.

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The Interurban is mostly separated trail, but there are a few well-signed sections along roads. Once you get toward Lynnwood, you will pass some furniture stores near Alderwood Mall. Then you will get to this section that parallels I-5.DSCN0316

Turn right at this overpass to get to Poplar Way, which takes you straight to Chick-Fil-A.DSCN0315

We were greeted by a line wrapped around the building.DSCN0311

The drive thru required extra traffic control as it wound its way through the Lowe’s parking lot.DSCN0313

The wait wasn’t actually that long, and the nuggets and waffle fries lived up to expectations.

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We immediately headed back south in search of Big E’s Ales. This place was great! DSCN0320

The beer was great! The atmosphere was great! It was conveniently a block off the trail. We had already eaten, but the food looked great too. We will be back soon!IMG_0055_2

Time to head south back toward home. Look at this well-decorated trail!DSCN0321

Look at this cool nest. Is it for an eagle or an osprey?DSCN0317

Back in Phinney Ridge, we stopped by Lantern Brewing. I had heard about this but hadn’t checked it out yet. We were really impressed with the bike parking. Usually we have to lock our bikes to a fence, but this brewery had a whole bike corral.DSCN0325

We walked inside, the atmosphere was cool, but then we saw the board. It’s a Belgian style brewery! Like, I wasn’t sure how to pronounce what I was ordering. Bummer! This place had so much potential, but it’s just not our style. Just look at our forced smiles.

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Oh well. At least Big E’s was a good find. We can’t really get greedy and expect 2 new awesome breweries in one day. We finished out this fun day with a big fat steak on the grill. DSCN0331

I would ride to Chick-Fil-A again. The route was easy enough to maybe go early and stop for breakfast. What I would really like to do is ride north on the interurban beyond Big E’s for whatever the day’s distance goal was and stop back at Big E’s for lunch. I think this will happen before the end of the summer.

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Port Orchard Loop

  • May 9, 2015
  • 66 total miles
  • 48 total miles of cycling

It was a warm sunny Saturday, and we needed a destination. Where do I go for inspiration? The Washington beer map. I checked for a brewery across the Sound, and selected Slaughter County Brewing Company. They describe themselves as a Pirate-themed Irish pub, serve pizza, and I noticed a friend of mine recently checked in on Facebook, and I trust her beer judgement.

Seattle to Fauntleroy Ferry

The plan was to leave North Seattle by 10 in order to minimize having to ride through crowds in Alki. We got off to a late start, for no reason other than it was a Saturday. The Elliot Bay Trail was pretty empty and a great mellow start to the morning.

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Getting from downtown to West Seattle was rough. There is so much construction, and we were early enough that there wasn’t much bike traffic to follow. The actual roads were not so bad, but there was not enough signage to figure out where to go. We definitely lost some time stopping to wonder what to do a few times, but we eventually made it to the Spokane Street Swing Bridge, just in time for it to open. DSCN0229

This set us back almost half an hour, but at least it was interesting to two industry lovers like us. The bridge swings open to a 45 degree angle to clear the shipping channel, and according to this wikipedia article, it is the only bridge of its type in the world. DSCN0232

The barge that came through was interesting too. It was stacked full of miscellaneous stuff, including that tractor near the front.

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Finally we made it over the bridge to Alki. There was a little construction detour onto the main road, at which point a boat shaped car full of pirates passed us! Yes, you read that right. Pirates on a parade float type of vehicle were going the other way, carrying on and yelled “on your left” to us in pirate language. You don’t get to experience things like that in a closed up car! By now the Alki Trail was getting pretty busy on this warm sunny Saturday. Our plan to stop at Starbucks for breakfast technically worked out, but it wasn’t as relaxing as originally expected.

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The ride from Alki to the Fauntleroy ferry was beautiful and uneventful. The ferry traffic was bad! For cars, that is. We got right on. Something was wrong with the beer taps though. We ordered what we were told was a Budweiser, even though the handle looked like something fancy. The beer tasted so bad, neither John nor I finished our cup. If you know us, you know that beer has to be pretty gross to be left unfinished.DSCN0239

Southworth to Port Orchard

The ferry from Fauntleroy to Vashon and then to Southworth is so confusing. John could not stop asking questions about how the ferry could make three stops, and what directions the cars will face. Luckily, local ferry riders just love to educate you on how it works.

If you want to ride this loop, do not type in your destination to Google Maps for a route because you will miss the best part! Once you get off the ferry, after the grocery store and post office, turn right onto SE Cherry St and head to this little coffee shack.

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On the other side of the coffee shack, there is a gravel footpath. Walk your bike (or ride if you do not fear flat tires) down this path to SE Cornell Rd.

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Come out the other side, and ride on a deserted paved waterfront road.DSCN0242

You will hug the water for almost the remainder of the whole trip!DSCN0244

It is beautiful and mellow and flat and fun.

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There is a camel

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Lots of time for selfies

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The traffic is scarce enough to attempt action selfies

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Approaching Port Orchard, there are great views of the Olympics across the Sinclair Inlet. I had to look that up on a map. DSCN0265

We rolled into Slaughter County Brewing Company right around 1 pm.

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Shockingly, it was dead! I don’t get it. It was a beautiful afternoon. A brewery with an outside patio overlooking the water. Where was everybody? This guy got it. A beer, an iPod, and a waterfront view.

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Getting Home from Port Orchard

We headed from Port Orchard toward Bremerton to catch the ferry back to Seattle. We kept going down Bay Street toward Gorst to get on State Route 3. The locals tried to tell us it wasn’t safe, but we have done it before, and it was quite comfortable on a bike. When you get to the intersection of SR 3, there is a little bike route sign to go up this path instead of an onramp. Don’t miss it! DSCN0281

The cars on SR 3 are moving fast, but the shoulder is ginormous.DSCN0284

You’re getting close when you pass the aircraft carriers.DSCN0294

The ferry was packed because there was a Mariners game that evening. But we were on bikes, so we got right on, duh!DSCN0298

After a Red Hook and a Snickers, all that was left were the 8 miles back to the house.

The day took longer than expected, thanks to a late start and a few delays on the road. But it was so worth it. It was a great day to be outside and get moving. I highly recommend this route!

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Belfair 2015

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Belfair State Park was the first campground John and I ever biked to. A few years later, we wanted to try it again and see how it compared. First of all, we took a more direct route so that saved some miles and lots of time. The long climb up SR-3 was no problem. It seemed like we arrived in no time!
It was cold again this weekend. The sunny days were comfortable, but multiple weather underground sites reported the overnight low at 33°F.
The whole trip was fun, but I’m going to be honest, the route was not amazing. There are some views of the Olympics, you get to go on the ferry, the shoulder is mostly wide. It’s just loud and busy, and it is far from the romantic back road journey one might picture when contemplating a bike tour. If you want an easy-to-navigate route with a guaranteed hiker/biker site, this works. Definitely a good trip for a test run of your equipment.
All the gear. Only panniers and water bottles missing.

All the gear. Only panniers and water bottles missing.

Kitty didn't want to say goodbye!

Kitty didn’t want to say goodbye!

The Route
Belfair is on the peninsula, so that meant a ferry ride! But wait….before the ferry even arrived, we saw wildlife! I heard sea lions barking, and we spotted the group of about six of them swimming around the bay. I didn’t get a good photo because I actually just watched and enjoyed them while they were closer.

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Sea Lions in the distance

Sea Lions in the distance

I like the upstairs galley of the Kaleetan better than most ferries

I like the upstairs galley of the Kaleetan better than most ferries

Last time we attempted this ride, we thought it would be smarter (safer) to avoid SR-3, but we were met with lots of hills and detours that were just not worth it. This time, we took our bikes right on the on-ramp and went for it! The shoulder is pretty decent for this whole route, but there is traffic the whole time. It’s not overly scary, but you have to pay attention and deal with the traffic noise. It is definitely not a relaxing experience.
Olympics in distance

Olympics in distance

Once in Belfair, after a stop for supplies (aka beer) at Safeway, you go a little over 3 miles on the road to the park. This road does not have shoulders. For the most part, cars have plenty of room to pass a bike. Some cars give more room than others, some trucks seem to enjoy intimidating bicycles, but it’s just for 15 minutes, you can handle it with some blinky red lights and patience.

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Seriously contemplated if I could haul a bundle of wood on the rack

Seriously contemplated if I could haul a bundle of wood on the rack

I was shocked at the car traffic on this small road on Easter morning. There were a lot of cars leaving the womens prison. John tried to take a video of that, but that’s when the battery died. More on that later.
It was about 50 total miles of riding. We left around 1:30 pm Saturday and returned about 2:30 pm Sunday. Not technically a S24O, but it could be if you wanted.
The Campground
Belfair State Park has 3 hiker/biker campsites that are $12 per night. Since it is not peak season, and there were plenty of open sites throughout the campground, we thought we would upgrade and inquire about a spot on the beach. For those, we would be charged the full-utility hookup fee of $40. We compromised on a standard site for $20. I wish there was a little more flexibility there, considering bikers are low-maintenance campers, but I get that the ranger on duty might not have felt authorized to make that decision.
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Even though it wasn’t peak season, there was a camp host, which means we could buy firewood! After chatting to Gus a little about his history of opening and closing up the camp every year, I’m assuming that there is not a host onsite year round. He was nice enough to give us some extra kindling too.
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In the summer you will see a lot of kids swimming in Hood Canal. The beach was mostly deserted on this chilly April Saturday evening, the day before Easter. I’d love to come back in the fall to see salmon in the creeks.DSCN0191
 
The Food
The mission this trip was to be fully self-supported for food. Knowing there would be a Safeway and Starbucks 3 miles away, we were ready to pack in all our food and cook it onsite (with the replaced pump for the MSR stove). Full disclosure: we did buy beer and a bottle of water (luxuries) at the Safeway just because we could.
The dinner menu was precooked Johnsonville chicken sausages, some leftover hotdog buns, a pack of ramen each, and some carrot and celery sticks. We lost one sausage to the campfire, but we didn’t miss it. Eating the ramen with chopsticks was really the highlight. A snickers for dessert. 
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Breakfast didn’t go as smoothly. The stove was not cooperative, but in a new way. The white gas kept coming out as liquid. It took John many many attempts to get the burner going. We’re still not sure if it was just too cold or if maybe the stove needs a good cleaning. During the frustration, John grabbed a metal piece and burned his thumb pretty bad. 
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After downing some oatmeal, we took our coffee cups for a morning beach stroll. John stuck his burned thumb in all water or any cold metal that we passed for relief.
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By the time we got the ferry, I was starving. I think in the future I would pack something like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a morning snack. There is only so much breakfast you can eat before exercising. The ferry had an adequate snack for purchase. 
The GoPro
Still working on figuring out the GoPro. Since the time lapse photos weren’t very exciting, John tried taking a few videos. This one of me riding onto the ferry is kind of neat.

There was another cool one from Bremerton where you could see the aircraft carriers, but the video got lost somewhere during the import process. Learning to use the GoPro and the Mac has been rough….
 
John was feeling really comfortable turning the camera on and off and starting and stopping videos on the move. But the battery wore out on the second morning. Really? That’s it? Maybe the cold temperature affected it, or maybe it was in standby mode more than John realized. We need to do some more research on this. I would hate to take a dumb video at the beginning of the trip and then have a dead GoPro when we are at some hypothetical cool location far from home we may never see again.
Any advice on battery efficiency?
What I wish I brought: I remembered gloves, but the ones I packed happened to have holes in them.
What I wish I didn’t bring: I packed pretty smartly this time around. I would go for a different flavor of sausages next time though. Johnsonville three cheese Italian style chicken sausage has a really fake cheese flavor when you eat it plain.